BEIJING Oct 27 China has legitimate economic
interests in the Arctic, Denmark's ambassador said on Friday,
welcoming partnership with Beijing in the rapidly thawing polar
region but adding that a possible resource rush would come with
With climate change linked to melting ice caps in the
Arctic, the prospect of untapped hydrocarbons, fishing grounds
and new summer shipping lanes has whetted China's appetite for
polar research and exploration capabilities.
China doesn't have any Arctic coastline, like Russia,
Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, but it will be
keen to cooperate with those countries and have access to the
process of designing any new rules at the pole.
China has "natural and legitimate economic and scientific
interests in the Arctic", Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen told a
group of journalists, adding that Denmark and other nations
welcome China as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council.
"The Danish government would like to see China as a
permanent observer, and I think the others (members) are
likewise willing to do that," he said.
China has applied to become a permanent observer in the
forum -- a role that would not give it voting rights like the
eight member states -- but the application is still pending.
"There are rights and obligations, and of course China needs
to observe those obligations to become an observer," he said,
referring to ecologically safe development and recognition of
existing territorial claims over most of the region.
Permanent council members are Russia, Canada, Denmark,
Finland, Iceland, Sweden, the United States, and Norway.
The Arctic is thought to hold more than 10 percent
of the world's undiscovered oil reserves, 30 percent of its
undiscovered gas reserves, and large mineral deposits.
Most known resources there lie within countries' exclusive
economic zones, an area 200 nautical miles (370 km) within their
"It could, therefore become a rush for resources, for oil
for gas, for minerals," Petersen said. "All of the international
actors that would like to participate in that rush should of
course abide by the highest international standards," he said.
But Petersen said there is a tendency to overlook
how much of the Arctic is already spoken for under international
"We try to take it in a perspective of how much is already
regulated by national jurisdiction and special laws, and
therefore ... to prevent expectations for the use of these
resources," he said.
Resources aside, access to shortened shipping passages could
be critical for China, the world's top exporter.
A 2010 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute said China had been treading lightly with its Arctic
policy, fearful of fueling worries over the country's rapid
economic rise and growing military might.
China is planning three Arctic research expeditions from
2011 to 2015, Chinese state media have said. It also plans to
build a new 8,000-tonne icebreaker for launch by 2013, a
companion to its current Ukrainian-built vessel, Xuelong or Snow
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)